Director of Controversial Czech TV Series Defends Wartime Nazi Occupation Show

Czech Nazi Occupation Reality Show 'Holiday in the Protectorate' - H 2015
Courtesy of Ceske Televize

Zora Cejnkova says the format of the reality show that features three generations of a Czech family living in a remote mountain village with actors playing Nazis and Gestapo officers is respectful, closer to BBC's 'Living History' than a reality show.

The director of a controversial Czech reality TV show that recreates life under Nazi occupation has defended the series in the wake of criticism.

Zora Cejnkova says Holiday in the Protectorate (Dovolenu v Protektoratu) is a serious attempt to understand what it was like for ordinary people to live in Nazi-occupied Europe.

In a live online discussion hosted Monday by Czech daily tabloid newspaper Blesk, Cejnkova said the format hews closer to the BBC's Living History than a reality show.

The show, eight episodes that air three times a week until mid-June, features three generations of a Czech family living in a remote mountain village with actors playing their neighbors, Nazis and Gestapo officers.

The show, which has drawn the ire of critics who say it demonstrates poor taste and disrespect for the sacrifice of those who died in World War II, attracted more balanced comments and questions in Cejnkova's hour-long chat.

"As a little girl, my grandmother told me how they smuggled food from the countryside to the cities and how my uncle, a doctor, tended to wounded resistance fighters," Cejnkova said in her opening remarks. "That stayed with me and I realized this was a completely forgotten part of the second world war that deserved retelling."

She denied the show was sensational and insisted that she did not view it as a conventional reality show.

"The show is inspired by various formats — Living History has long been a successful format, which began with the BBC," she said. "[My show] creates a story that involves our family. I see it as a new cross format, a sort of situation drama."

A doctor and psychologist were on hand during filming to ensure that no member of the family was harmed, Cejnkova said, adding that the family rapidly entered the reality of life in the 1940s and forgot about the presence of cameras.

Challenged by one participant, who said he had lived through the war, to "take a tour of Ukraine and other war torn territories" and asked if she thought it was "funny to live" in those times, Cejnkova replied that her motivation in making the show was to ensure the wartime experiences were "remembered."

Cejnkova insisted that the show should not offend any viewer.

"It is not a reality show, it is a new format. Holiday in the Protectorate shows the everyday life of people, their problems and concerns," she said. "Every day they had to make decisions, knowing that any decision could have dire consequences."

Cejnkova was asked at one point: "Would you like to live in the Protectorate?"

"No, no one would want to live during the war; that's terrible," she replied.